By Chris Kelly
Exec. VP/General Counsel, TBF
It’s a new year, and maybe you have set some of the “regular” resolutions, i.e. read the Bible more, lose weight, exercise, see the world, etc. Now that we’re deep into January, I won’t ask how many of those resolutions have been abandoned, but I will suggest you make one additional resolution this year that will greatly benefit your family and you: make an estate plan! I realize that this resolution isn’t as exciting as some others you can make (no new outfits or trips involved here; however, it doesn’t involve sweating), but it is still an essential act of stewardship for Christians that can bring so much peace to families.
While the term “estate planning” sounds intimidating, it really comes down to having a strategy for what happens if you are unable to make decisions for yourself and what happens to your property when you die. To accomplish these things, there are three essential types of documents that you need to have in place:
• Wills/Living Trust. A will or trust controls many important parts of an estate. It appoints who settles the estate or becomes the guardian of minor children. It details who (family, friends, church, etc.) receives your property. It also controls the timing of when the property is distributed (now or later). A will or trust or may be both may be suitable, depending on your unique situation.
• Powers of Attorney (POA). You typically have a POA for financial matters and one for health care. In both cases, you are appointing someone who can make important decisions for you. In most scenarios, you are unable to make these decisions for yourself.
• Advance Care Directives. These documents give direction as to the kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want if you should be unable to make or communicate these decisions yourself. In Tennessee, a living will or advance care plan accomplishes this task.
It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But in reality, seven out of 10 people have no plan in place! Having these documents in place can alleviate the stress on your family if a time should come when you are sick or incapacitated or when you die. There is great peace and satisfaction knowing that you have made things easier for your family for when something happens to you.
And as Christians, it’s another way that we can be an example of stewardship for our families. Through your estate plan, you can make provisions for the support of Kingdom work for the ministries in your local community, in the state, and around the world.
So, how do you get started? Contact your attorney or financial planner. Or if you don’t have one, the friendly people at the Tennessee Baptist Foundation (shameless plug) are more than happy to assist with guiding you through this important process.
Feel free to contact us at 615-371-2029 or take a look at our website at tbfoundation.org for more resources on estate planning.
So, get out your list of resolutions and add this one to it. You (and your family) will be glad you did. And now get back on that treadmill!